I WAS RAISED a Catholic, went to Catholic elementary school and catechism and experienced my first confession, confirmation and receiving of the Holy Communion all before the age of 12.
Confession was a big thing for me. Here I was, one on one in a wooded confessional with a priest behind a screen, and I would start the process by saying, “Bless me father for I have sinned, and my last confession was one week ago.” One week ago. How many sins can a kid have in a week? I felt like I needed something to confess to the priest, so I made sins up.
Then, when I received my penance for my sins, my buddies, waiting in line, would ask what I got. “You know, five Hail Mary’s, ten Our Fathers and a good Act of Contrition.”
This was a Friday ritual for young Catholic kids. And it was difficult, as a pre-teen, to come up with sins every week. Some of us would gather and have a “sin strategy” meeting to make up things to confess. I think at the age of 11, I told the priest that I committed adultery, just to come up with something. I didn’t even know what it meant. I think my biggest sin was lying to the priest about my sins.
This story reminds me a bit of New Year’s resolutions. I feel that most resolutions are made up on the fly. You’re in a social situation, a lunch or dinner, having conversation about New Year’s Eve plans, and then someone asks the obligatory question. What are your New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Now the fun starts. People start to make up their resolutions right then and there.
I am going to lose 13 pounds and go to the gym three days a week, plus I am going to call my mom more often and start going to Wednesday services. I am going to the gym, too, and I’m quitting smoking and getting involved with a charity on the weekends and volunteering more. I am going to “Marie condo” my home and give things away to Goodwill and eat healthier. I am going to read a book a week and learn a foreign language. Then, of course, everyone starts saying yeah me too. I’m going to do that, too!
Unfortunately, these are not resolutions but instead they are “things to do.” A resolution is a firm commitment to change or do something, and that takes some planning.
I am a huge fan of resolve, and it should not be taken lightly or flippantly. Maybe that’s why so many resolutions fail. As the saying goes, a lack of planning is planning to fail. So, instead of making up a quick off-the-cuff resolution, try making a resolution to spend some time planning what it is you really want from the new year for yourself.
I have a ritual I do every January of fasting for a month. My fast gives me clarity and allows me to plan better for whatever changes I want to make. Then I make my resolutions, when I am prepared.
Think about what you really want in life for the new year, write it down in complete detail, and enjoy the ride of a new and improved you.
Peter Remington is an executive at Houston CityBook and also a business consultant and life coach. For more information on him and his Prepare 4 More, visit here, or email him directly at Peter@PeterRemington.com. Part Two and Part Three of his New Year’s series are also available.